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Following a few years of decline, Springs Spree shows vigor

Springs Spree, the downtown festival formerly known as Springspree, has undergone a transformation bigger than the one suggested by its subtle name adjustment.

"If people have been coming to Springspree in the past," says new coordinator Betsy McClenahan, "they need to be ready for a change."

First of all, this year's event, slated for June 16, will wrap up with a street concert headed by N-Tha-Mixx, a popular local R&B and funk group. McClenahan says festivalgoers can expect "a big-band Motown show that will have everybody dancing."

Then there's the look of the event itself.

"With all of the bridge construction going on around us, we decided on a different configuration," McClenahan says. "We'll have more of a town-square shape, rather than the long strip."

Tejon Street will be closed from Colorado Avenue north to Platte Avenue, with activities on Pikes Peak Avenue and Kiowa and Bijou streets between Cascade and Nevada avenues. The N-Tha-Mixx show will happen on Colorado, starting around 5:30 p.m.

In addition to the street concert, a variety of entertainment, from martial-arts demonstrations to performances by area musicians, is scheduled throughout the day.

"We are really trying to work closely with Downtown Partnership," McClenahan says. "We are trying to embrace downtown in this event."

In a year of change, that actually is a renewed commitment to the way things used to be. Twenty-nine years ago, Springspree was hatched as a street fair to celebrate and rejuvenate the city's unquestioned center.

"A group got together to do some rah-rah stuff to get people to come downtown," explains McClenahan, who was a part of that event, and has been every year since. "We're talking about a time when downtown isn't like it is now."

The tradition grew throughout the 1980s, and by the early 1990s, the streets were packed for Springspree. Lines formed for rides in City Utilities cranes and at the dunking booths, where local celebrities sat above the water. Until five years ago, when some of the event's spark began to wane, it had been a two-day festival split between downtown and Monument Valley Park.

McClenahan is confident that this year's changes will inject some of the old community enthusiasm.

"I think we've taken lemons and made lemonade," she says. "This is supposed to be a large community event, and that's what we have planned."

Although the legendary bed races are not on the schedule, many of the standard Springspree activities remain, including the Sailin' Shoes Run for the YMCA and the Cystic Fibrosis Rubber Duck Race, along with some new additions. One will benefit the Fallen Police Officers Memorial with a handcuff-a-thon. The Optimist Club is hosting a Brain Bowl. More nonprofits than before will be handing out information. And, of course, there'll be food.

"We'll have food, lots of food, like ice cream and turkey legs and kettle corn," McClenahan says, "but we'll have a lot more, too."

Springs Spree

Downtown Colorado Springs

June 16, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Free; for more on attractions, free transportation and other information, visit springspree.com.

  • Following a few years of decline, Springs Spree shows vigor

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